Welcome back to the fourth and final part of our mid-offseason update. Today we're rounding out our series with the Brewers outfielders. While the organization might be brimming with talent in the outfield, most of the top flight prospects will still be plugging away in the minor leagues next season. Here's your 2016 outfield, along with their Steamer projections, courtesy of FanGraphs:
LF: Khris Davis (28) - .247/.316/.466, 23 HR, 24.5 K%, 8.3 BB%, 109 wRC+, 1.0 fWAR
CF: Kirk Nieuwenhuis (28) - .236/.301/.413, 3 HR, 27.7 K%, 7.8 BB%, 90 wRC+, 0.1 fWAR
RF: Ryan Braun (32) - .276/.341/.477, 21 HR, 20.3 K%, 8.4 BB%, 118 wRC+, 1.8 fWAR
Bench: Ramon Flores (23) - .265/.335/.410, 1 HR, 15.9 K%, 9.0 BB%, 101 wRC+, 0.1 fWAR
Bench: Domingo Santana (23) - .249/.328/.431, 17 HR, 29.8 K%, 9.6 BB%, 105 wRC+, 1.3 fWAR
Boy, for a team supposedly loaded with outfield talent, that looks a little rough. Steamer is projecting another significant step backward for Braun in his age 32 season, dropping a full win off his 2015 total. This makes sense to the computer, given his age and the recent trajectory of his career, however he's another year removed from the start of the injuries that have plagued him since news of his PED use leaked (totally a coincidence) and if it turns out he's finally put those nagging injuries behind him, his production could swing back the other direction.
The rest of the outfield is loaded up with strikeouts, with Santana's rate of just under 30 leading the bunch. This would actually be a significant improvement over his career 37.6% rate -- if the calls to move Davis and install Santana full time are to be justified, he's going to need to put the bat on the ball more consistently. At just 23, the potential for him to improve is greater than it is for Davis.
In center, we're giving the newcomer from New York first crack at the starting job over Keon Broxton, but it's by no means a mandate. I'm just not quite sold on Broxton, who owns a 28.3% strikeout rate and a .742 OPS in just over 3000 minor league plate appearances. Nieuwenhuis has major league experience and is just one year removed from a 2014 season in which he hit .259/.346/.482 in 130 PAs. Without a true backup center fielder on the roster, one would expect Santana, who ended 2015 as the de facto starter there, to get some at bats in center as well.
Flores, for whom Steamer projects just 20 plate appearances, rounds out the bench out of roster-building necessity, since he's out of options. The 23-year-old former Yankees prospect who came to Milwaukee via Seattle in the Luis Sardinas trade is currently recovering from an ankle injury suffered in August. While there's been little information since the injury occurred regarding his recovery, he'll be seven months removed from the injury by the time Spring Training rolls around. Should he not be ready for Opening Day, I'd project Shane Peterson to fill the 25th-man role.
While Brewers fans should not expect to see top prospects like Brett Phillips or Tyrone Taylor just yet, I would expect that at some point this season, Michael Reed will join the major league roster for good and all. A couple of veterans recently signed to minor league contracts in Alex Presley and Eric Young Jr. could also factor into the mix and wrestle the center field job away from Nieuwenhuis with strong springs. Finally Kyle Wren, whom the Brewers acquired cheaply from the Braves when his father was ousted as the Atlanta GM, could get his first taste of big league action in 2016 as well.